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Thursday, 2 April 1998
Page: 2390

Mrs DRAPER —My question is addressed to the Minister for Family Services. Minister, how is the government ensuring older Australians have a real choice in determining whether they stay at home or whether they choose to enter residential care? How will the government also ensure that elderly Australians receive a higher quality care than that which they have received in the past, particularly in my seat of Makin?

Mr WARWICK SMITH (Minister for Family Services) —I thank the member for her question. As one of the very few nurses in this chamber, she understands the need for quality care for older Australians and has been an advocate for the need for us to come up with policies that give a continuum of care.

Mr Griffin interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —The honourable member for Bruce.

Mr Griffin interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —I warn the honourable member for Bruce.

Mr WARWICK SMITH —We have focused on getting right the residential aged care arrangements in this country to address the neglect which the Labor Party left us with. Today, we have taken a step to focus on the need to provide additional care arrangements for those people who choose to stay in their home.

One fact that people should be aware of is this: 93 per cent of older Australians are ageing in their home and that is their prefer ence. That is where they would rather stay. What we are doing here today is taking for the first time a concerted, considered approach to providing assistance to those people who want to make that choice. That is the key word: it is choice. We want people to have a choice. We want there to be flexibility in the range of opportunities there are to deal with those issues that I have been talking about in this place for so long—that is, the increasing number of Australians who are moving into the aged category. They are the ones who are deserving of a good mix of public policy, an ongoing, rolling commitment of resources from the broad taxpayer. Where they have the capacity to contribute to the cost of their care, we are asking them do that and that policy is now in place. I know that the member for Makin has been a dedicated supporter of these policies and, as it is her birthday today—

Mr Crean —Happy birthday.

Mr WARWICK SMITH —Yes, why not recognise that fact, because this is a package that should be celebrated. Let me just make mention of some public comments for the benefit of the opposition. The Council on the Ageing in Australia put out a press release this morning strongly endorsing the statements made by the Prime Minister this morning. They said:

Altogether, we see the package as a significant advance in the Governments' relationship with those older, frail Australians who wish to continue living in the community.

We had from the Carers Association of Australia some 600 people gathered in Canberra to hear the Prime Minister deliver this package. There was total and complete acclamation for what has been achieved here today. Let us have a look at some of my critics. We had Norah McGuire, someone I well remember from when I appeared on a television show and she kicked the tripe out of me. What did she say today? She said:

After what happened about aged care restructuring, you know, the Minister, we knew, it is logical that he has to do this because aged care restructuring, it is good to hear something that is positive now.

We are addressing these issues because we know there has to be a sustainable aged policy in this country. There has to be a mix of policy to provide choice and real support for aged Australians in a meaningful way, whether they choose to go into residential care or whether they choose to stay in their home. This is a policy package that deserves the support of every thinking Australian.

I have to say that I am absolutely amazed—and, Mr Speaker, I will conclude on this—to see that there is an MPI today. The only person in this country who is against this package is the member for Jagajaga. I will be very interested to hear at the end of question time why this ridiculous MPI has been put forward by the Labor Party.

Mr SPEAKER —The minister will draw his answer to a conclusion.

Mr WARWICK SMITH —Why are you against older Australians? How are you going to pay for it? Where was your policy prescriptions at your convention? Not a word! Not a word! There has not been a constructive contribution to this debate from the member for Jagajaga or the Leader of the Opposition from the day this debate started.